Events on the other side of the world generally have little direct impact on us and a year ago Chinese wet markets or chemical laboratories would have been of little interest or concern to all but a few.
But COVID may now make us pay closer attention to risks that lurk beyond our borders and one of the biggest is not so far away. Having always lived in the Brighton/Worthing area, the nuclear power station at Dungeness always seemed in a far-off remote part of Kent but is within 50 miles of most of the larger towns in Sussex. Dungeness is currently out of action but there are reactors on the French coast within 100 miles and it was only back in 2013 that a foul smelling gas cloud caused concern on the south coast, although subsequently it was believed to have leaked from a chemical plant in Rouen.
You would hope that the French operate to similar safety levels as the UK and the threat is minimised but spare a thought for the Lithuanians now living close to the recently built Astravyets Nuclear power station, the first in Belarus and within 25 miles of Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. The Lithuanians objected to the Russian built plant citing issues with its construction and subsequently passed a law banning imports of electricity from Belarus when the reactor became operational in protest. The Russians and Belarusians deny any safety concerns (even though they did manage to ‘drop’ a reactor during construction) and there is a certain irony as Belarus was one of the worst affected countries in terms of contamination following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster when the fallout spread for thousands of miles, including some areas of the UK.
If there were to be a Chernobyl scale incident in the UK or a near neighbour, do not expect to be covered by insurance. Nuclear and radiation risks are excluded from mainstream UK insurance policies as it has always been regarded as too big for insurers and therefore a national Government risk. Compensation would come from the nuclear industry who operate under strict liability (they must pay out regardless of fault) and these rules apply internationally because of the risk of cross border contamination. Those involved in the nuclear industry must have compulsory liability insurance arranged with specialist insurers under the umbrella of the NRI (Nuclear Risk Insurers) where the risk is both pooled in a country and then shared (reinsured) around the world amongst participating insurers.
Whilst the required levels of insurance cover are generally in the hundreds of millions, when exhausted, Governments become the insurer of last resort and that would certainly be the case with a Chernobyl scale event. The true long-term cost of Chernobyl in terms of lives and finance is not known but most estimates exceed £200 billion and as we have seen with the cost of the COVID pandemic would dwarf the amount covered by insurance.
And I haven’t mentioned nuclear war or terrorism, but enough doom and gloom!
Controversial Policies – COVID BI and Guns
The wait continues. The court authorities may have accelerated the process and the Supreme Court has now heard the appeal, but they will not be drawn on when they reach a decision. It is unlikely to be before Christmas and could be in January.
Also, controversial in the US but in a different way is the ‘Carry Guard’ policy for gun owners covering legal defence costs in case they shot someone in self-defence. Critics say it encourages gun owners to shoot people and the National Rifle Association have been taken to task in New York, not for the insurance product itself but for marketing the policy without an insurance licence.